Showing posts with label courage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label courage. Show all posts

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Lesson in Courage from Wood Ducks

Nature shows are favorites for my husband Lee and me.

They allow us glimpses into the animal kingdom that would otherwise be hidden from us.

An added benefit: Watching these creatures in action often gives us valuable insights for our own lives.

Take for example, the young wood ducks featured in the 2103 Emmy award-winning PBS Nature Program, An Original DUCKumentary.

The mother wood duck lays her eggs in a tree cavity, up to 70 feet above the forest floor. Although she lays just one egg per day, the chicks all hatch on the same day. And just 24 hours later, they’re ready to greet the world.

First, the mother flies out from the nest and lands on the ground nearby. Then she starts calling her babies to join her. One by one they venture to the edge of the nest hole. At this point, their wings are not developed and they’re incapable of flying. So you wonder, how are they going to get out of there alive?

The first one looks out, hesitates for just a moment, and then jumps. You watch incredulously, thinking it’s headed for certain death. But instead, this one-ounce ball of fluff lands softly on a bed of leaves. The others follow in turn, and together they pursue their mother’s voice, waddling behind her as she leads them to the water.

The scene is remarkable. We were holding our collective breaths, wondering how these delicate creatures could possibly survive such a fall. This brief video (1:33 min) shows exactly how they do it.

There’s no place for fear or self-doubt with these young birds. They’re driven by the need to be with their mother, and this burning goal over-rides the brief uncertainty they might experience just before making their tremendous leap.

For me, it’s a valuable lesson in courage.

As humans, we have the unique ability to reason and imagine potential consequences, often to our detriment. We can over-think the situation and allow ourselves to get caught up in negative emotions – projecting bad things that could happen if we take a specific action.

This can lead to indecision and inaction as we become paralyzed due to fear of failure, concern about criticism from others, or doubts about our own abilities.

Next time you feel afraid due to uncertainty about the future, recall the wood duck chicks taking that leap with no assurance of how they’ll land. Summon the courage to act, and you can benefit no matter what happens, as Norman Vincent Peale so wisely observed:

"Too much caution is bad for you. By avoiding things you fear, you may let yourself in for unhappy consequences. It is usually wiser to stand up to a scary-seeming experience and walk right into it, risking the bruises as hard knocks. You are likely to find it is not as tough as you had thought. Or you may find it plenty tough, but also discover you have what it takes to handle it."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Naked Determination – One Woman and Her Inspiring Life Journey

Gisela Hausmann, author of Naked Determination
Too often we look to celebrities from the world of sports, entertainment or business as our heroes. The problem is, these famous folks appear larger-than-life, so we don’t really believe we can achieve the same level of success.

And then there are the everyday heroes. Personally, I find them much more inspiring than the ones whose names are often in the headlines. I can identify with them more readily.

Gisela Hausmann is such a person.

After reading her remarkable book, Naked Determination: Forty-one Spirited Tales for Fearless, Motivated Underdogs, I felt I had made a new friend and learned important lessons I could apply to my own life.

The title alone tells you a lot about her.

And then there are her stories. 41 of them. Each one revealing the unique strengths found in this amazing woman…

Being pushed off the high dive by a bully at age 6 when she couldn't swim and figuring how to survive. Standing up to that same bully (and winning) at age 8 to defend her brother. Later, teaching herself to use a chainsaw. Grabbing the opportunity to get within four feet of Mihkail Gorbachev and take his picture. Traveling to exotic locations that most people have never even heard of, like Lhasa, Zanskar and Ladakh.

Each chapter stimulated me to think about situations in my own life where I had used – or failed to use – the strengths that Gisela has come to engage at will, like courage, boldness and determination.

The structure she employs makes it easy for us as the readers to do this. Each chapter ends with her own insights about the lessons she took away from a specific situation. Then we are left to draw conclusions about applying the ideas in our own life.

No platitudes or general motivation here. Just a brave, adventurous woman telling her own stories in a unique way that will touch your mind, heart and funny bone. A few of my favorite quotes…

How to tackle something unpleasant: “The key was to do it fast, not allow the misery to sink in and to not indulge in malady by verbally reinforcing it.”

Seize the moment: “I live by the concept that we should never hesitate if a once in a lifetime chance opens up.”

Take action NOW: “If we wait to start a journey, the destination may not be anymore what we wanted to find. There is no perfect time to do what we feel we must.”

If you enjoy memorable, real stories delivered in bite-sized chunks by a talented, engaging writer, you will love Naked Determination. It’s a book I’ll go back to whenever I want to remind myself what’s possible for any human being with the drive, grit and tenacity to succeed in life. I highly recommend it.

“It is really only the uncertainty of whether we have the skills to follow through, which keeps the rest of us ordinary instead of extraordinary…All we need to figure out is what we really want.” – Gisela Hausmann

Monday, March 25, 2013

Jake Davidson and Kate Upton - Taking a Chance

Jake Davidson and companion in the opening scene of his video

Have you ever thought of doing something audacious but talked yourself out of it because you were afraid of failing...or concerned about what other people might think?

Recently two young people took a risk and it paid off in ways they never expected.

Talia Myers, a USC student majoring in film-making and daughter of my colleague Gordon Myers, created a YouTube video that garnered more than 2 million views in less than a week.

How did she do that?

It’s all because a young man named Jake Davidson decided that he wanted to invite supermodel Kate Upton to his high school senior prom. But he had to find a way to get her attention. That’s where Talia’s expertise came in.

Together they created a two-minute video that resulted in instant celebrity for Jake after Kate responded with this tweet:

The news media got hold of the story and during the next few days Jake was featured on several national TV and radio programs. He became an overnight sensation.

This is the video that started it all…

I know it’s unlikely that you’ll be making a video to invite a famous person out on a date, but Jake and Talia exhibited three personal strengths that you can use, too.


The video stood out. Talia and Jack took a unique approach – incorporating an engaging story and humor into a compelling invitation – and it got Kate’s attention.

Sometimes we base goals on our past experience or what we’ve seen those around us do. Let your imagination run wild. Think BIG. Brainstorm the most fantastic outcome you could hope for, and ask yourself what you need to do to make that a reality.


Jake had no idea if Kate would even respond. But if he hadn’t asked, he would have remained unknown to her. And these publicity opportunities would certainly never have happened.

Examine what holds you back from stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a risk. Think about the worst that could happen. Often, it’s not that bad! Even if you fail, you can learn from the experience. And you’ll realize you can do far more than you originally thought possible.


I think another reason Jake got Kate’s attention was the self-assurance he displays throughout the video. Based on her tweet above and her phone conversation with him on the Today Show, she was clearly taken with him and his approach.

People can sense when you are confident…and when you’re not. Give yourself credit for what you’ve done in the past. You have prevailed in the face of many difficulties in your life. Let those successes remind you to remain poised when presenting your ideas to others.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, American diplomat (1884-1962)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why Nature Filmmakers Have My Respect

Without a doubt, my favorite TV programs are shows about the world of nature. What passes for “reality” shows can’t hold a candle to these, where you can see the moment-by-moment struggle for survival that creatures in the natural world face every day.

I like to call this Nature At Work.

Recently, as I was watching “Magic of the Snowy Owl” on the PBS Nature series, my attention alternated between two adult owls’ valiant attempts to raise their young in harsh conditions and the filmmakers working in those same harsh conditions to capture the year-long story.

Whether they’re covering frigid regions of the Arctic or blazing heat of the desert, those who brave the elements to bring us this rare footage have my eternal respect and gratitude. Because of their efforts, millions of people like me can witness marvels of nature that would otherwise be inaccessible.

As I see the world through their lenses, I often think about the personal strengths required for individuals who take on these challenges. These three stand out...

COURAGE. Many of these locations are remote and treacherous. It can be risky just to get to the destination. The dangers are real, even life-threatening at times. These adventures are not for the faint of heart! Lucky for us viewers, these hardy souls say “yes” to the opportunities and don’t let fear stop them.

Often the fears we experience in life are due to our own thoughts and imagination. Unlike the filmmakers, the dangers we perceive do not exist in reality. Examine your fears and figure out what you can do to work through them and take action.

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.” - Thucydides, Greek historian (C. B.C. 460-400)

PATIENCE. What we see on the screen in a two-minute clip may have taken weeks or months of waiting for just the right moment. It’s about being in the right place at the right time, allowing the action to come to them and not trying to rush the shot.

Do you sometimes want to hurry things along, just to get to closure according to your own time frame? Not everyone moves at the same pace you do, and you may need to let things unfold in their natural way. Trying to push can be counter-productive. 

“Some things arrive on their own mysterious hour, on their own terms and not yours, to be seized or relinquished forever.” - Gail Godwin, American novelist (1937- )

PERSEVERANCE. There must be moments when the crew is tempted to throw in the towel and say, “That’s it! No more!” Like when hundreds of mosquitoes are attacking their exposed skin. Or toes and fingers are getting frost-bitten. Adverse weather conditions and physical discomfort would send less committed people running for the hills. And yet these dedicated individuals stay until they get the job done…no matter what.

What kinds of obstacles cause you to quit? Can you stick with it just a little longer even when you feel like giving up? Often breakthroughs come at the moment when you feel you can’t take one more step. 

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” - Harriet Beecher Stowe, American novelist (1811-1896)

Next time you watch a nature program, think about the courage, patience and perseverance required to capture those moments, and you will have a deeper appreciation for the unique opportunity you’ve been given to see “nature at work.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Courage to Make a Change

During the summer of 1982 I was working as director of federally-funded programs for a local school system. It was my second year on the job, and the difference between Year 1 and Year 2 was like night and day.

I had been hired by someone who recognized my abilities and gave me free reign to make improvements to the programs I was in charge of. My first year was fun and exciting as I worked hard to involve parents and to provide the latest learning strategies to teachers whose positions were funded by federal dollars.

At the end of that first year, we got a new superintendent of schools. As often happens with a new regime, people get shuffled around. My supportive boss got relegated to a lesser position, and I no longer worked for him. Instead, his replacement turned out to be a micro-manager who held agonizingly long meetings and stifled my creativity.

On top of that, the new superintendent decided I should take on an additional program that I had no training or expertise in. It was a directive, and I had no say in the matter. That program was politically-charged, and I often had to deal with pressure from different factions when making decisions.

I worked under these conditions for almost a year, as my typical enthusiasm and commitment to my work waned with each passing day.

The final blow came when the principal in one of the elementary schools moved two strong teachers out of my program and back to the regular classroom. He replaced them with weaker teachers and made these changes without consulting with me first. When I protested to the superintendent, I discovered how little my opinion mattered. Principals had absolute power about placement of teachers and were not expected to collaborate with those of us affected by their decisions.

It turned out that I had the responsibility to get results (improved student performance) without the authority to make that happen.

I felt powerless, frustrated and disillusioned.

I started having knots in my stomach each day and found myself dreading Monday mornings. I hated the lack of control over my situation and the inability to directly influence the results I was expected to achieve.

If I wanted a different outcome, I was going to have to do something different. Drastically different.

I could no longer tolerate seeing my confidence and energy drained because of a work environment that was toxic to my mental and physical health.

With the support of my brand new husband and to the shock of my boss, I turned in my resignation in August, 1982. At the time it was very rare for someone to leave what was considered a prestigious position at the school board office.

Even though I had ZERO experience in the business world, I decided that I would become an entrepreneur...

A wise mentor once told me that we’re only motivated to change when the unknown looks better than the known.

You may be hesitant to make a change in your life because you aren’t sure what the consequences of your decision will be. You could be afraid that you’ll be worse off after the change. So you stay where you are, even though it’s uncomfortable or actually painful.

But if the situation worsens, there may come a time when the price you’re paying is just too high. And when you get to that point, you’ll need to alter what you’re doing. Maybe it will be just a small step each day to move towards a future that seems more desirable. Or you could end up like me, leaping into a whole new adventure without a safety net, trusting that you’ll discover the best course of action as you go.

It takes courage to look a difficult situation in the face and acknowledge its reality. You can’t change the players, and it’s usually a waste of energy to try. But you can change yourself and the way you respond to your circumstances.

Almost 30 years ago, I left the security of a paycheck and ventured into the world of entrepreneurs. That journey has had its own set of perils and challenges, but at least I’ve known that I’m the one responsible for charting my course.

No matter what path you’re on, you have choices and opportunities, even amid your difficulties. Will you have the courage to recognize them and take actions that lead to your happiness and fulfillment?
"It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been test your break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin, American author (1903-1977)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Courage – Take Action in Spite of Fear.

You may be reluctant to step outside your comfort zone when faced with something new. But you can only discover your true capabilities when you are willing to take risks and step into the unknown. Applying these ideas will help you get past your fears and take action.

What fears have kept you from going after something you really want? What first step can you take to get past those fears and build your confidence?
"If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been." - Robert Schuller, American clergyman

"Many of our fears are tissue paper thin, and a single courageous step would carry us through them." - Brendan Francis Behan, Irish author

“Don't be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small steps.” - David Lloyd George, British statesman

"Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision." - Winston Churchill, British prime minister

Monday, June 21, 2010

Joan Rivers: A Role Model for Courage and Perseverance

Joan Rivers is far more than a successful comedian. A phenomenal entrepreneur, she overcame extreme adversity to create a multi-faceted company that now exceeds $200 million in sales annually.

I recently had the chance to meet Joan and hear her speak at the Glazer-Kennedy SuperConference in Dallas. Her inspiring presentation included not only her own experiences as a business builder but also insights she’s gained from hosting “How’d You Get So Rich?” In this reality TV show, Joan simply asks people who’ve made money in unique ways how they acquired their wealth. [You can watch full episodes HERE.]

All these individuals started with nothing but a dream, and Joan described several traits they had in common. How can you apply these success principles to your own life?

1. Say YES to every opportunity.  Hesitation, doubt and fear can cause you to miss out on life-transforming breaks.

2. Have a strong work ethic. “If you love your work, you shouldn’t know it’s 5:00.” If you really love what you do, you’ll think about it all the time and figure out how to go to the next level.

3. Have a motto or mantra that drives you. A few favorites:
“Never look back.”
“Use whatever resources you have.”
“Yes is the only answer.”
4. Ignore your shortcomings. No one is perfect. If you believe in yourself, don’t let what you can't do well deter you. And don't let others discourage you from pursuing your dream.

5. Never let anyone tell you something is beneath you. Be willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve your goal.

6. Keep your sense of humor. Accept that life is difficult, so make a joke out of the bad times whenever you can. “100 laughs a day = 10 minutes of rowing.”

At 76 years young, Joan Rivers is a role model for lifelong learning. The authentic enthusiasm in her voice as she described the lessons she’s learned from her own life and the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed was inspiring. And remember...
“Don't follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise.” - Joan Rivers

Monday, October 19, 2009

Father of the Century: Dick Hoyt

Some challenges are so great that they bring us to our knees. This remarkable story about father-son team, Dick and Rick Hoyt, proves that we can create our own success - despite overwhelming obstacles.